Saturday, September 21, 2013

Victorian Black Silk Lace Shawl

Just like the Edwardian Child's Lace Coat, this black lace shawl was crumpled up inside a box. Some areas of the shawl are discolored to strange shades of brown and olive, due to sun exposure in the room where this was stored. The room has 3 nearly floor-to-ceiling windows, each barely covered with a sheer plastic-y curtain; parts of the shawl must've been too close to the opening of the box, and thus got tinged by the sun.

The shawl definitely feels like it's made of silk. I'm guessing it's late 19th century at the earliest, since it seems far too small to be a mid 19th century shawl. The flowers are similar to this shawl whose net background is much heavier. The shawl also looks like it was machine made, due to the thickness and tightness of the flower border motif.

I didn't want to display this shawl because I didn't want to risk any further sun damage. Also, it didn't seem an appropriate accessory to any of the garments on display. I carefully wrapped it up in many layers of acid-free tissue paper and stored it in a clean box.

The shawl spanned the whole length of this table, almost 5 feet long!
Some of the green and copper discoloration.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Edwardian Child's Lace Coat

This delicate cotton lawn and lace coat was found crumpled up at the bottom of a box in storage. It has a few dirt (?) stains but I was wary on cleaning them because the fabric and lace was torn in a few places and I didn't want to aggravate the damage. I did, however, store the coat properly by wrapping/lining it in layers of acid-free tissue paper and then placing it in an archival-quality box. The curved breast shape of the coat seem to indicate a pigeon-front style, and the decoration is a strong indicator that this piece is Edwardian.

The coat has a single snap fastening at the front, though the snap seems very modern--shiny and new--to me, so it was perhaps a later alteration when the old closure (likely a hook and eye) fell off. The skirt of the coat is slightly flared. The size and styling suggest that this may have been worn by a girl about nine years old.

The lace insertion all over the coat is a testament to the patience of the seamstress who made this: white cotton picot trim is connected by a white cotton tape woven through the picots! This treatment is used decoratively (as on the sleeves) and structurally (as on the armscye seam). The picot trim and insertion was sewn by machine. However, I'm unsure if the lace embroidery on the chest and back was down by machine or by hand--though I think it was likely machine made.

The front of the coat.
All of the delicate picot seams, and that nasty brown stain from this garment being crumpled up in a box!
The delicate sleeve trim.

With the coat open. Look at that curve!
(Sorry for the blurry photo!) A very modern-looking snap.
The back of the coat.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Accessories at the Kearny History Museum: Part 2

In this part of the accessory series, we'll be examining the objects displayed with the 1894-7 Corded Silk Gown.

This brown velvet hat is one of the few pieces in the Kearny History Museum that comes with an exciting provenance. It is decorated with fine brown plumage and a bird's head. The bird is unfortunately missing its right "eye." The crown is turned up in back. All over the hat, the velvet is gathered to produce a textural effect.  Along the rim of the crown, the velvet has worn away. The hat has a fitted lining made of disintegrating black cotton.

Look at all that dust, eughh!

Note the threadbare velvet.

Disintegrating black cotton underneath the hat helps hold the hat on a head.

The black beads in this purse are woven into the purses structure. It is not lined, but there is evidence that there was once a silk lining that disintegrated. The purse closes with a large snap, but one of the snaps is missing. A bit of white rope is fastened to the handle of the bag, presumably to help secure it to the mannequin's hand. I tried to remove the white rope, but it was tied so tightly I was afraid that I would harm the bag. Inside the bag was an embroidered white linen handkerchief. Faded, with multiple stains and tears, I'm unsure if the hanky is period or not, but I suspect that it is.

The beads of the purse have a black-brown shimmer.

I suspect that those bits of purple/brown material might be the remnants of a silk lining.

Very detailed embroidered motif.
I'm not too sure how those huge gaping tears came to be! I was afraid to wash it due to the fragility of the material.

I believe these black gloves date to at least the Edwardian (early 1900s) era. They have a bit of stretch/give to the them, and they appear to be machine made--just look at that machine sewn hem at the wrist! I soaked the gloves in cold water, and after just a few minutes the had a noticeably brown tone. After several more soakings I still wasn't able to get the entirety of the staining out, and I fear that part of the discoloration is fading from excessive exposure to light. The gloves are too small for the mannequin's hands; someone had removed one of the mannequin's fingers to help accommodate the gloves, but I popped off another finger for some extra ease.

Regardless, I think the accessories really "make" this display. I've arranged the accessories the way they were originally placed, as from a stylistic point of view their initial placement was visually pleasing and effective in creating a "scene."

Before washing the gloves. This staining could also be fading from excessive light.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

1894-7 Corded Silk Gown with Later Alteration

This gold corded silk gown  is very interesting in terms of dating and construction. The seamlines on the bodice indicate that it is clearly from the 1890s (1894-7 is a more specific estimate), but the display card and the neckline decoration are plausibly from 1903. It is likely that this gown was refashioned to fit in with changing styles; this was a popular practice for hundreds of years, as clothes that grew out of fashion were either refashioned to the new style or the material was scrapped and used for something else. Waste not, want not! Centuries of women were recycling their mother's and grandmother's clothes before it became the fashion norm (I'm talking to you, Etsy!).

I asked around the fashion history blogosphere for some insight on this dress, and surprisingly, almost everyone agreed that the bodice was on backwards! I never would have guessed until it was pointed out to me, but now that I've noticed it, I realized that the sleeves in this position show the center seam and there is too much fullness at the front of the sleeve--the old museum crew really did put this bodice on backwards!

The gown has large, full cape-like sleeves, trimmed in a matching black lace. 

Large water stain on one of the sleeves.

The bodice fastens in front with hooks and eyes. About 1" of the fabric overlaps to disguise the closure. This is the closure viewed from the back--when the bodice was on backwards.
Further proof that the neckline decoration was a later alteration: the cream fabric and black lace have been merely basted in, and the edges weren't even cut neatly or turned under. Looks like a pretty quick fix-up.
Note the rusting on the bone casings. Bodice is lined in brown cotton.

The armscyes have been left with raw edges and basting stitches.
Stitches securing the c. 1903 bodice alteration.

The skirt is pleated in the back to a cotton waistband. There is a large triangular godet in the back of the skirt that gives the skirt fullness and dramatic sweep. The waistband doesn't appear to have a closure; there are no buttonholes or stitching, no evidence of hooks and eyes. The waistband is held shut with a huge safety pin, which was tugging and tearing the fabric (the skirt is very heavy). After removing the bodice, the original color of the skirt is visible. Although it hasn't suffered too much from the sun, the gold silk has lost its original luster. The skirt is lined in yellow cotton. It is trimmed with a wide swath of black lace that also might've been a later addition, since the lace stops at the left thigh and the raw edge was neither cut neatly or turned under.

The mannequin's posture is very strange; her hips lean forward and she doesn't have much of a derriere, so the weight of the skirt pulls up the hem in front. Whoever displayed this dressed devised an interesting (read: ineffective and weird) support system: a dirty blue polyester shirtdress folded up and attached to a rope cord that looped around the mannequin's waist. This was covered with a large piece of packing paper stapled to wide grosgrain ribbon, also tied around the waist. As you can see from the photos, this technique did nothing to imitate the posture and body shape of an 1890's woman and the skirt was woefully unsupported.

The dingy shirtdress. At least wash your clothes if you're going to use them under antique garments! (Don't use them! Use only archival-appropriate materials when storing or displaying antique garments!!)
I sewed the waistband closed, to avoid further damage and pulling on the waistband fibers from that huge safety pin. I used rolled up wads of acid-free tissue paper to fluff up the mannequin's behind but to no avail--her posture is so bad that the skirt has no choice but to lift up in front. The worst part was that this showed the mannequin's rusting pink-brown stand and feet. I tried my best to clean the crud off of the stand, but that only chipped off more paint, revealing an even worse color underneath. To solve this, I took a length of black felt (which I found lurking in the back room) and arranged it under the skirt to 1. simulate the appearance of a petticoat/ underskirt 2. not be as horribly distracting to the overall look of the dress. I also used wads of acid-free tissue paper to simulate the support of petticoats and fluff out the skirt around the legs. I cleaned up the whole mannequin, vacuumed the wig, put the bodice on the right way, and the look of the display was already improved.

The sleeves drape much better now. You can also see where the delicate black lace trim abruptly ends.

The bodice looks so much better this way, but sadly the fading becomes more visible where the edges previously lapped over each other.
I wasn't able to fasten all of the hooks since I didn't want to put too much force on the fabric.
The dress was accessorized with a brown velvet hat topped with a bird's head, black knit gloves and a black beaded handbag. The black gloves were streaked with dust (or possibly fading). I soaked them gently in water, and each soak turned the water murky brown. I wasn't able to totally clean the gloves, but at least this is an improvement.

Before washing the gloves.
The rope attached to the handle was tied so tightly I was unable to remove it. It may have been to help keep the purse on the mannequin's wrist. The purse is stuffed with a torn, delicate embroidered silk handkerchief.
The final look with the accessories.